Northern Ireland’s ‘Highline’; Viaduct announced as second RHS Community Garden

BBC’s The One Show has announced that a magnificent former railway viaduct, which spans the River Maine, in Randalstown in Northern Ireland will become the next RHS Community Garden for local people to relax, garden in and enjoy.

The RHS is creating four new Community Gardens, one each in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, to share the joy of gardening as part of its celebrations for 2022 RHS Garden Day on Monday 2 May.   The England Garden, a community in Huntingdon, was announced on The One Show last week.

Tidy Randalstown Environmental Group, who applied to the RHS for the Northern Ireland Community Garden, is a group of volunteers within Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council.

Northern Ireland leading garden designer Johnny Knox, will be designing and building the garden liaising with the community, on a former railway viaduct over the River Maine, part of a well-used recreational pathway.

The group’s vision is to create a symbiotic relationship between a working garden and a world class amenity for locals and visitors, similar to The High Line in New York.

The garden will offer a mix of sustainable, pollinator-friendly planting, providing year-round interest, extended bee corridors, seeds and berries for birds, and shelter for hibernating species. The group say the garden will be the first of its type on the island of Ireland. They plan to establish an intergenerational team to maintain the site, broadening the local skills base and furthering their visibility in their current role of engaging and helping vulnerable people in their community.

Northern Ireland TV Presenter and keen gardener Gloria Hunniford shared the exciting news with the people of Randalstown for the BBC The One Show announcement.

Helen Boyd, Chair of the Tidy Randalstown Environmental Group, said: “Everyone here in Randalstown is absolutely delighted about this project.

“As well as being an exciting and distinctive garden on such a magnificent site on the former railway viaduct, the garden will provide an important restorative space for the people who live in the area. Being away from busy roads with its pure air and beautiful plants, means everyone will wish to meet here and linger.  At the moment we don’t have any open green space in the Town, so this will be a vital and much used important place for the people of Randalstown.

“People’s well-being will benefit from the sights, scents and sounds which greet them in this suspended garden.”

Garden Designer, Johnny Knox, says:  “It’s not everyday you get asked to design a garden for a spectacular viaduct, it’s such a unique and dramatic setting, but, more importantly, it’s an incredible privilege to work on such a cherished local landmark for the people of Randalstown, what’s most exciting is a vibrant garden in this setting has the potential to transcend and give back more to the community than what the viaduct could in its original form.

“The community gardening group here do a huge amount to bring different generations together through gardening, from local schools brightening up the care home with plants, to creating pockets of green spaces for people to reflect in.

“I have made sure this new community garden is a restorative place with seating and areas for people to get together and facilitate workshops.  There are also elements to give a nod to the history and original function of the site.  By using brass arches shaped in the scaled outline of an old railway carriage I hope to emulate something of the grandeur associated with this era of transport. I look forward to it being enjoyed for generations and seeing it expand and grow in time.”

The new Community Gardens will be central to the RHS celebrating and sharing the joy of gardening on RHS Garden Day, which will kick-start National Gardening Week.  The RHS received hundreds of applications from across the UK and the Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland Gardens will be announced in the coming weeks on BBC The One Show.